Death is arguably the most terrifying thing in life. The reality of our mortality and the inevitable end of all that is familiar are subjects that are hard to swallow. Despite, or perhaps because of this, death has always been a subject loved by artists, poets and writers ever since the early civilisations of the Egyptians and the ancient Greek.
However much we are frightened by the prospect of dying, there is something fascinating about it too. Death is incomprehensible and therefore intriguing. It also confronts us with the fact that our existence in this form is finite and that we should enjoy life while it lasts.
William Barry Roberts is both personally and professionally intrigued by the concept of mortality. In his work he found many ways of expressing his interest in the subject and explored different methods of communicating this. One of his most personal works is his Post-Mortem Self Portrait (2010) for which he painted himself as deceased, surrounded by names of toxic substances and food chemicals that potentially may cause his death.
Post Mortem Self Portrait (2010)
Anthropocene Epoch (2010) shows a human skeleton made out of small wooden branches on one side of the framed work and a tampon representing a rocket on the other. According to Roberts the work addresses the fact that we live in a time ‘that is defined by the change mankind has made on earth’. We have created machines that can fly us to the moon (or tools that make our monthly pains easier to deal with), we can change the world for future generations but we are still mortal human beings, souls trapped in limited bodies.
Anthropocene Epoch (2010)
Roberts works with a dark theme, but has a beautiful and soft way of painting and drawing. His paintings look old, and even have a medieval feel to them sometimes. Roberts is not afraid of irony, or even comedy, which becomes apparent in Bob Ross Rotting (2007). His sense of humour gives his work a lightness that is especially to be appreciated when it comes to something heavy like the end of life.
Bob Ross Rotting (2007)
More works of William Barry Roberts, including his Unloved Series, a series of small portraits of forgotten and neglected senior citizen corpses, can be found on his website http://williambarryroberts.com/